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US visa fees hiked 42% for touring artists

US visa fees for foreign musicians are set to increase 42% on 23 December.

The new US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) fee schedule, published in the Federal Register on 24 October, reveals the fee for submitting form I-129 for “nonimmigrant workers” – which includes artists and entertainers – is set to increase from $325 to $460.

USCIS director León Rodríguez says: “This is our first fee increase since November 2010 […] We are mindful of the effect fee increases have on many of the customers we serve. That’s why we decided against raising fees as recommended after the fiscal year 2012 and 2014 fee reviews.

“A fee surge of this kind adds an additional and unacceptable financial burden on our members”

“However, as an agency dependent upon users’ fees to operate, these changes are now necessary to ensure we can continue to serve our customers effectively.”

Both the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and Canadian Federation of Musicians (CFM) oppose the increase. “While we recognise that for Canadians the USCIS artist visa process may be more simplified than other musicians seeking to enter the United States under the same permits, a fee surge of this kind adds an additional and unacceptable financial burden on our members,” says CFM executive director Liana White.


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Industry groups call for loosening of CITES rules

Pearle* and six other music industry bodies have called for a revision of CITES resolution 16.8 – the regulations covering the cross-border movement of musical instruments made with endangered flora or fauna – stating they are currently “deeply concerned about the difficulties encountered by the professionals we represent when they travel and tour with musical instruments containing CITES-listed species”.

In a joint statement, Pearle* (Performing Arts Employers Associations League Europe), the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), the International Federation of Musicians (FIM), the League of American Orchestras, the International Association of Violin and Bow Makers (EILA), the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers and the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) say “reasonable and practical procedures are urgently needed” to minimise travel delays and administrative burdens for musicians travelling with instruments containing species listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), including ivory, rosewood, mother of pearl and lizard skin.

“Musical instruments are built with highly sophisticated craftsmanship… using these instruments does not raise any conservation concern”

While reiterating their “commitment and support of the CITES objectives as regards the combat against wildlife trafficking, including illegal trade of ivory and other protected species”, the seven groups request delegates to CITES’s 2017 general meeting (CoP17) – currently being held in Johannesburg – to recognise that “musical instruments are built with highly sophisticated craftsmanship”; that “some of them are unique and, as such, represent genuine cultural treasures”; and that, “given that using these instruments does not raise any conservation concern, we would like to respectfully request member states to agree upon simplified travel procedures” (as follows):

1. Uniform procedures and harmonised rules when crossing international borders are crucial for musicians and orchestras, in order to avoid travel delays and financial burdens. We therefore urge all CITES parties to harmonise the rules that apply when travelling with musical instruments and the implementation of resolution 16.8

2. The certificate itself should be issued in a more flexible way. Many musicians play on extremely expensive instruments that are owned by orchestras or patrons (thanks to generous loan programs [sic]). As a consequence, the fact that an instrument is “personally owned” is not a relevant criterion. We therefore recommend that this reference be removed

3. Travel delays could be significantly reduced by simplifying inspecting and credentialing procedures. Subject to the regulatory framework being adapted along the lines above, controls upon request would limit the administrative burden and help reduce delays at the border

The revision of resolution 16.8 is the 42nd item on the CoP17 agenda.


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